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Julian Hawthorne
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 231 pages of information about Idolatry.

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—­What sound was that?—­Was it a yell of triumph,—­a shout for help,—­a scream of terror?—­It does not come again; but the silence is more terrible than the cry.

XXXIII.

The black cloud.

“Hiero,—­it was his voice!” said Gnulemah.  She looked in her lover’s face, trusting to his wisdom and strength.  She rested her courage on his, but her eyes stirred him like a trumpet-call.  The burden of that cry had been calamity.  Love is protean, makes but a step from dalliance to grandeur.  Balder, no longer a sentimental bridegroom, stood forth ready, brief, energetic,—­but more a lover than before!

The voice had at the first moment sounded startlingly clear, then it had seemed distant and muffled.  As Helwyse swiftly skirted the granite wall of the temple, his mind was busy with conjecture; but he failed to hit upon any reasonable explanation.  The cry had come from the direction of the temple, and had he known of the existence of the apertures through the masonry, he might partly have solved the mystery.  As it was, he thought only of getting inside, feeling sure that, explainably or not, Manetho must be there.

In the oaken hall he met Nurse, who had also heard the cry, but knew not whence it proceeded.

“In the temple, I think,” said Helwyse, answering her agitated gesture.

The clew was sufficient; she sped along towards the door whence she had so lately fled panic-stricken, Helwyse following.  Beneath the solemn excitement and perplexity, lay warm and secure in his heart the thought of Gnulemah,—­his wife.  Blessed thought! which the whips and scorns of time should make but more tenderly dear and precious.

As he breathed the incense-laden air of the temple, Balder’s face grew stern.  At each step he thought to see death in some ghastly form.  In the joy of this his marriage night he had wished all the world might have rejoiced with him; but already was calamity abroad.  Birth and death, love and hate, happiness and woe, are borne on every human breath, and mingled with daily meat and drink.  So be it!—­They were parodies of humanity who should live on a purer diet or inhale a rarer atmosphere.

All the lights in the great hall, except the altar lamp, were burnt out, and the place was very dusky.  Nurse went straight towards the secret door, looking neither to the right nor left; while Helwyse, who did not suspect its existence, was prying into each dark nook and corner.  An inarticulate exclamation from the woman arrested him.  She was standing behind the altar, close to the clock.  As he approached she pointed to the wall.  She had found the key in the lock, but dared not be first to brave the sight of what might be within.  She appealed to the strength of the man, yet with a morbid jealousy of his precedence.

Helywse saw the key, and, turning it, the seeming-solid wall disclosed a door, opening outwards, a single slab of massive granite.  Within all was dark, and there was no sound.  Was anything there?

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